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Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 1997-10 > 0877883196


From: Chris Bennett< >
Subject: Female adultery rates in the English royal family
Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 08:26:36 -0800


Some of you may remember that 12-18 months ago I pointed out a chapter in
Jared Diamond's book "The Third CHimpanzee" on adultery, and particularly
a study on the blood groups of new-born babies in New Jersey in the late
1940s which was not published at the time because it showed that at least
10% of the children studied could not have been the child of the nominal
father. I thought the implications of this for the reliability of
traditional patrilineal genealogies were quite entertaining, so I
generated some models showing, for different assumed rates of undetected
female adultery, how few male generations you would need, even with
perfect documentation, to reach a confidence level of 50% or less.

THe reaction I got was rather interesting -- many people seemed to feel
that Jersey in the 40's was a particularly immoral Babylon (perhaps it
still is?) and that women in other places and times would have neither the
incentive nor the opportunity to engage in such appalling behaviour.
Alternatively, since the undetected adultery rate is by definition an
unmeasurable statistic, we might as well ignore it.

For no good reason, it occurred to me the other day that we do have a
measurable estimator -- detected female adulteries. So I just did a brief
survey of the English royal family from 1066 to date. I looked at queens
regnant, queens consort, wives of heirs and ex-kings, and women either
directly in line of succession or married to men directly in line of
succession, using the tables in Louda and Maclagan. Altogether a sample
pool of 78 women, if I've counted it right.

I came up with the following list of detected adulteries. It is entirely
anecdotal. I know nothing about the love-life of many, even most, of
these women (Anne Mortimer? Frances Brandon?), though some look
suspicious (e.g. Mary Tudor, grandmother of queen Jane), so I expect the
following list is an underestimate, even though I suspect some of what I
think I know (was Sophia Dorothea framed?).

1) Isabel of France, wife of Edward II
2) Katherine Roelt, mistress of John of Gaunt while married to Hugh
Swynford, ancestress of the Beauforts and Henry VII
3) Catherine Howard, wife of Henry VIII
4) Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots
5) Sophia Dorothea of Brunswick-Zelle, wife of George I
6) Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, wife of George IV
7) Wallis Simpson, mistress of Edward VIII while married to Mr Simpson
8) Diana Spencer, wife of Charles, prince of Wales

Of course, the sample size is very small, the survey anecdotal, and the
relationship of detected adulteries to undetected adulteries resulting in
childbirth is unknown. Still, the New Jersey estimator of 10% turns out
to be right on.

Additions/corrections to the list are welcome. Anyone prepared to survey
other families even more welcome!

Chris

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